It’s been about a month now since I arrived at my student apartment from the Dublin International Airport and, yes, it’s also been a month since I have left the familiarity of the US for the first time. While there are some brands and chains here that I recognize from home, like Burger King, Special K, and even Starbucks and their pumpkin spice lattés, there are many new things that I have never seen before. Spar, Tesco, and Lidl have become frequent stops for grocery shopping and the green crosses of pharmacies can be seen on most main streets. Café Sol is perfect for a quick bite for lunch and Penney’s is the best place for affordable clothes.
But, of course, I have learned more in the past month than where to do my shopping for the semester.
I have already visited many new places that I will never forget. During Orientation, the whole group of Champlain Abroad Dublin students got very familiar with the city of Dublin through a scavenger hunt, where we raced around the city searching for everything from a man in a tweed hat holding a pint of Guinness to a woman selling owl necklaces to the answer to what U2 can do in St. Stephen’s Green Park that no one else can. (In case you are wondering, the answer is to herd sheep!) In general, the past month has allowed me to become quite familiar with Dublin, even just during my half hour walks to the Academic Center, and I have already fallen in love with the city.
One of my classes, the Dublin Literary Experience, went on a literary tour of Dublin, labelled “A Walk on the Wilde Side” after famous Irish writer, Oscar Wilde.
Since I am a writer and have always loved reading, it was a treat to see Dublin’s rich literary history. We saw houses that Wilde himself lived in, an awesome playground inspired by one of his children’s stories, and an old-fashioned pharmacy famous for its lemon soap that James Joyce mentions in his novel Ulysses.
As a group, my fellow study abroad students and I have already been to cities and towns outside of Dublin. We have strolled along the beaches of Bray and visited the farmer’s market in Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leery). Earlier in September, we spent a weekend on the west coast of Ireland, quite different from the bustling city of Dublin. The west of the country is more what most people think of when they think of Ireland: rolling green hills, charming small villages, and sheep everywhere.
As we progressed throughout the weekend and saw landmarks like the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, I was struck by not only their beauty, but the idea that I was experiencing things that, if I hadn’t taken this chance to study abroad, I may have never seen. It showed me how small and accessible, but also how different, yet wonderful, the world can be.
One more really fun place that I went to a few weeks ago was the Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park, one of the largest parks in Europe. I got to see many animals there, including a red panda! Pandas are my favorite animals and, though a red panda is not the traditional black and white bear, it is still technically a panda and I was delighted to finally get to see one in person!
Besides the places that I have been, I have also already learned a lot about myself during my time in Dublin. This was my first time living on my own in an apartment, buying groceries, and cooking for myself. Over the summer, sometimes I wondered if I could do it, and I would often have doubts that I could. But now that I am here, I have found that I can take care of myself and, though I have had days when I miss my family and friends, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I am already growing as a person from studying abroad and I can’t wait to meet the person that I will be at the end of my semester in Ireland.
In my first Writing the City class, my professor, Stephen McMahon, prompted us to write about the moment when we realized we were really here in Ireland. I thought about it for a bit, then remembered a moment of clarity I had on my overnight flight to Dublin. During the first part of my flight, I couldn’t see anything out the window, besides the night sky. I kept waking up and checking for a change until, finally, I saw exactly what I had been looking for. The sun was slowly rising and I could see fluffy clouds beneath me. The green wing of the plane stood out against the white backdrop, the Aer Lingus shamrock a beacon that I was not in America anymore, but in a new land. All around me, fellow passengers slept, but I was there to see what Stephen McMahon dubbed the “sunrise just for me.” And this sunrise represented not only the start of a new day, but the start of a new semester, new chances to learn, new adventures, new challenges, new successes, and above all, a new life in another country and an opportunity of a lifetime.
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